The life of an action/adventure protagonist really seems like a blast doesn’t it? That’s what it seems like to me at least. Adventure games all seem to have a escapist angle to them in least some measure. We’re not ourselves in these games, but instead these improbably powerful and capable people; people who can take any situation they’re faced with and not only confront it, but overcome it. It’s probably safe to say that many of would like to be more like the heroes we play as. I mean who wouldn’t want to be able to travel the world like Lara Croft or luck their way through everything like Nathan Drake? Perhaps, none of us, provided that we were willing to pay the price that is.
It’s a curious thing. With few exceptions, these incredibly intelligent and capable people never seem to lead very happy lives. They’re all adventurers, assassins, criminals, or “chosen ones”; all professions which necessitate difficult and dangerous lives rather than those that are easy and safe. Beyond the simple state of the game demanding it, I find myself wondering why someone like Nathan Drake would stay an outlaw when a man of his intelligence and knowledge could do exceedingly well as a true archaeologist. With his experience and contacts, creating a new identity wouldn’t be difficult so why continue to suffer the hardship his life demands? …Probably because he has to.
They all have to. Not because the game demands it, but because their character does. To be an action/adventure game protagonist is to be driven and stubborn to point of irrationality. It’s what enables them to overcome the challenges inherent to the lives they lead, but it’s also what keeps them trapped in those lives. Whatever their primary motivation: revenge, adventure, fear, sense of honor, sense of duty, etc., that driven nature keeps them clinging to it. They’re individuals who aren’t able to let go no matter how much they may want to (or need to). While not a debilitating attribute, it’s also the likely cause another common trait: that of being ‘the lone wolf’.
From Samus Aran, to the Master Cheif, to Nathan Drake, to Lara Croft, to be an adventurer is to be alone against the world. It’s a hard lifestyle that only a supremely driven individual can follow, so it’s only natural that we either see our heroes with no support, or only limited support. They go where most anyone else cannot follow, so they would of course develop a lone wolf personality. I would imagine it would be difficult to rely on others when doing so in the past either got other people killed or nearly cost you your own life? Could any of us do so when faced with a past like that?
It’s all rather strange. In these games these characters are presented as people we should aspire to be. They’re intelligent, independent, skillful, adaptable and knowledgeable. They can do things we never could, and can be things we could never be. Yet we’re always shown that these people are products of their lives up to that point, and those live are always either tragic, difficult, or both (in fact it’s often both). The games usually aren’t set up to be cautionary tales, but that’s almost exactly what our heroes wind up being. They’re successful in what they do, but it cost them dearly to become that capable, and what’re more: they’re not even done paying for it. It all amounts to one question: Is the life of an adventurer worth the cost?
Well is it? Do you know of an adventure game character that doesn’t fit this mold?